China says 'progress made' ahead of Xi-Biden meeting

BEIJING • China says it has set up a group with the United States to discuss disputes ahead of a video summit between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden planned for later this year.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said in an interview with state broadcaster CGTN that the group had already "made some progress", without specifying details.

"Dialogue and cooperation are indispensable, and confrontation and conflict will lead us nowhere," Mr Le said.

"We take seriously (the) US' recent positive statements on China-US relations," he added.

In recent weeks, Washington and Beijing have been rebuilding communication lines cut off during years of clashes over everything from trade and Taiwan to technology and the origins of the coronavirus, under the Trump administration.

While China has sought to portray high-level communications with the Biden administration as the restoration of a "strategic dialogue", the US has disputed comparisons to an earlier process criticised in Washington as ineffective.

The thaw came after the US released Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou from extradition proceedings in Canada last month, one of several demands Chinese diplomats handed to visiting American envoys in July as a condition to break the logjam.

The Chinese side subsequently freed two Canadians detained on spying charges in the wake of Ms Meng's December 2018 arrest, although both sides denied any link between the two actions. Since then, top US and Chinese officials have held in-person meetings on military, trade and security. The video summit would be the first public one-on-one meeting between Mr Biden and Mr Xi, although a date has yet to be set.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday she had no new information to provide on the summit. "It's just something that we're working through and in discussions about at a staff level," she said.

Mr Le said the high-level talks were evidence that China's "door to dialogue is open" at any time. "In the meantime, the two sides need to work together to build a good atmosphere and create positive conditions for the two presidents to meet," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'China says 'progress made' ahead of Xi-Biden meeting'. Subscribe